Coyote Video/Ice Cream on Wann Road in Porter Creek, seen Oct. 19, will be closing in the coming weeks. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)

Coyote Video/Ice Cream on Wann Road in Porter Creek, seen Oct. 19, will be closing in the coming weeks. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)

End scene: Last video rental store in Whitehorse set to close

Labour shortage takes its toll on Coyote Video/Ice Cream in Porter Creek

Roll credits.

It’s the end of an era as the last remaining movie rental shop in Whitehorse gets ready to shut its doors.

Coyote Video/Ice Cream has announced it will close its Porter Creek shop in the coming weeks, shutting the doors to the only movie rental store in the city.

“It’s sad. It was a hard decision,” owner Cory Adams said in an Oct. 18 interview as he explained the labour shortage has taken a toll on his business, making it difficult to operate both of his Coyote locations. “If I could keep it [open], I would.”

Coyote’s Porter Creek shop started out renting movies in 2003 and expanded to serve ice cream five years ago, while the Riverdale location that opened in 2021 focuses solely on food service. Adams is, however, planning to move into sales of video games, as well as 4K and Blu-ray movies at the Riverdale location.

Between the two stores, there’s seven employees with most being youth in high school. Like many businesses, Adams has struggled to find a full complement of staff for both locations and a decision for the business had to be made.

Over the last couple of months, Adams said he’s been looking at how to best deal with the situation, eventually deciding to close Porter Creek and focus on the busy food service location in Riverdale.

Customers informed of the news have expressed disappointment, but are largely understanding, he said.

“Times have changed,” Adams said.

Despite the changing times that have brought streaming services to many screens around town, it is not those services that is having the biggest impact on the business, but rather the current labour market. There are still many who come into the store, preferring the more hands-on rental selection.

“There’s still a market,” Adams said, though he acknowledged 2021 was a down year for the store.

As Coyote Video moves towards closing, it is is selling off its full stock of movies and games. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)

As Coyote Video moves towards closing, it is is selling off its full stock of movies and games. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)

Over the last four months; however, business has picked up with more customers coming in to scan the shelves, read the back of movie cases and pick out their viewing for the night, some pausing to get an ice cream cone on their way out. Others take in the video game titles before selecting the game they’ll bring home for a few days.

It’s been a fun job for Adams who has gotten to know many customers over the years, not to mention enjoying an ice cream here and there and choosing which movies and games will stock the shelves.

It’s an industry he has spent much of his career in, previously working as a manager at Blockbuster, Rogers and Movie Magic store locations before he opened his own store in Porter Creek, wanting to take the skills he learned on the job into his own movie business.

Under the name of Coyote Video, he reopened the space in the Porter Creek Mall on Wann Road that had operated as Porter Creek Video.

It was only when he went to register the business that he came up with the Coyote name, he recalled. When he went to register the business, he didn’t realize he would have to register the name.

Asked for the business name, he looked out a window towards the space that would later become Shipyards Park.

“I saw a coyote standing there,” he said.

Hence, Coyote Video was named and for 22 years, Whitehorse residents have frequented the store to get the latest movies and video games.

Haley Johnson, who many may recognize from behind the till or serving up ice cream at the Porter Creek store, remembers frequenting Porter Creek Video as a child. She went on to work at Coyote Video before moving south for 12 years.

Coming back to Whitehorse three years ago, she told Adams she was looking for a job and was soon once again greeting customers, advising them on where to find their favourite films or games in the store along with ringing through rentals and sales of collectables. And don’t forget: dishing up ice cream to long lines of customers on hot summer days.

“I don’t think it’s hit me yet,” Johnson said of the closure.

As she pointed out, the closure itself is keeping work quite busy as the store sells off stock and answers questions from customers. She expects that when the doors shut for good, she will then feel the impact.

Coyote Video/Ice Cream staffer Haley Johnson is seen inside the Porter Creek store on Oct. 19. Johnson will be working out of the Coyote Ice Cream shop in Riverdale after the Porter Creek store closes. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)

Coyote Video/Ice Cream staffer Haley Johnson is seen inside the Porter Creek store on Oct. 19. Johnson will be working out of the Coyote Ice Cream shop in Riverdale after the Porter Creek store closes. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)

Inside the shop on Oct. 19, two customers lamented the loss of the store with Johnson. As she told them, ice cream will still be served in Riverdale and, while movie and video game rentals there won’t be an option, they’ll be able to buy the latest movies and games.

And Johnson will also be working out of the Riverdale location, continuing to serve up ice cream and greet customers.

When Coyote opened, it was one of several options for renting the newest releases in Whitehorse. Among them was 38 Famous Video in Riverdale (at the same mall that now houses Coyote’s Riverdale location), Movie Magic and a Rogers outlet downtown along with a few others.

It wasn’t hard at that time to find a movie on VHS. Over time the technology would move to DVDs and onto Blu-rays and 4K.

By the end of 2012, 38 Famous Video and Coyote were the only rental shops remaining until 2018 when 38 shut its doors as streaming services became more popular, leaving Coyote as the sole rental shop in the city.

There, families continued coming in with their kids to rent a show for family movie nights, others turning up for the quality that a Blu-ray or 4K technology provide or opting out of a perhaps much higher Internet bill that might come with streaming.

Oct. 31 will mark the last day for rentals at Coyote, though selection might be down as the store is also selling off its stock in the meantime.

Adams expects Coyote in Porter Creek will be closed permanently by the end of November with the precise closing date depending on the sales.

While his business is changing, Adams will not leave movies and video games behind at his Riverdale location, given his retail plans.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com